Updated 10/12/2012 12:28 PM
Kodak Retirees React
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It's a move that will erase more than a billion dollars from Kodak's debt. The company reached an agreement with the Official Committee of Retirees to end health care and other benefits for retirees.
The Eastman Kodak Retirees Association, or EKRA, which is not the group negotiating with the company, says this news isn't a surprise.
Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield is offering Medicare plan seminars for those retirees who are facing the possible loss of their company-provided health insurance.
The seminars will be held at various locations throughout the Rochester area and are free to attend. Representatives will be on hand to help retirees understand their options.
Click here for more information.
EKRA members say they saw it coming when Kodak's patent auction process began to fall apart.
"Kodak had said that they were looking to get $2 billion to $2.5 billion from the auction process and right now they have nothing from that, so when that started to unravel that way, we began to think that it's going to have a pretty dramatic hit on benefits," said Art Roberts, EKRA.
This move will have an affect on all Kodak retirees. However, Dale Dewey believes those who retired prior to 1991 will feel it most.
"There has always been the feeling that Kodak would take care of us. Now this is kind of a slap in the face to them saying, 'well we lied. We promised, but we broke our promise,'" said Dewey, also of EKRA.
Kodak and the official retiree committee have been negotiating this plan since May. Retirees say they are disappointed there has been no communication with either Kodak or that committee.
EKRA says it tried to make a push during the summer to have that official committee pick up the responsibility to communicate with retirees. Instead, some retirees say they get their information from the news media.
"That's what I think is the most concerning thing from our standpoint is yeah, people are going to lose benefits, it's going to be a severe blow to some, it's not going to be so severe to others, but the fact of the matter is, could we have better prepared people for that? Could the company or the retiree committee better prepare people for that?" asked Roberts.
Rochester mayor Tom Richards says it's a shame that Kodak's financial woes have come to this and he feels for those that will lose their benefits.
"It's really a sad, sad thing that's come to pass. If this holds, it's going to have a negative impact on people and you can't help but feel badly for them. It's not something that I can contribute to particularly in terms of its merits because I'm not that involved in it, but even if it's meritorious it doesn't change the outcome. The outcome's not good for people," said Richards, (D).
Even though this will have a negative affect on retirees, it's a positive move for Kodak making it much easier for the company to emerge from Chapter 11.
"If the motion is approved, they will be released from a $1.2 billion debt, which is probably one of the largest debts they've got, and now they can go and say to the banks, to the creditors 'look it, we've accomplished this, we are now much more of a viable company,'" Dewey said.
MVP Health Care will also hold informational meetings for Kodak retirees who are Medicare-eligible. For more information click here.